When a Speaker Cancels: 5 Tips for Survival

As a busy meeting planner dealing with last-minute conference details, the last thing you need is for your speaker or entertainer to not show up or cancel at the last minute. Canceled or delayed flights (one of which I’m quite familiar), family emergencies, or scheduling conflicts can create havoc for you and your already busy time line.  There are steps you can take to be sure you are not caught off guard without a speaker.
1. Plan Ahead – A good rule for planning an event is to always have a backup plan.  Be in contact with your convention and visitors’ bureau or conference/hotel management staff.  They often keep files of local speakers or entertainers who can fill in at the last minute.
2.  Tap into Current Resources – Sometimes other presenters at your conference, such as those hired for your breakout sessions can fill in for the empty slot.
3. Request a Replacement – If the canceling speaker is truly professional, he/she will offer a replacement speaker.  They will NOT leave you high and dry.  That is a good way for a professional to get what we call in the industry, “black-listed.”  So, ask your canceling speaker for a possible replacement.
4. Work with a Speakers Bureau – One of the guarantees a speakers bureau offers is to provide you with a backup should your primary speaker suddenly cancel.  Bureaus filter for professional speakers who live by a strict code of ethics.  Bureaus work for YOU, not the speaker.  Some speakers have agents.  These agents have the speaker’s best interest at heart, not yours.  A bureau is your best solution to assisting you with your needs. It is in their best interest to help you with your event, no matter what the budget.
5. Get it in Writing – Be sure to accommodate for these provisions in your contract with the speaker.  A bureau should be including stipulations for these types of changes.  If not, find another bureau.

Remember to breathe and understand that there is help available.  Keep these simple tips in mind and you will feel more comfortable about dealing with the situation should it ever happen to you.

Recommended Reading:
Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Meeting & Event Planning, 2nd Edition

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